Friday, August 8, 2008

Amazing Kosovo - Reflections from Tamara Morgan

Since being back in the states, I have had several people ask how my trip was. Every time I respond with one word “amazing”. What an experience to have been able to participate in. I saw and experienced a lot of wonderful things while there. Most were happy, fun, and educational, although there were a few sad moments. There is one event, however, I will keep with me forever, and that is the last day at Slovene village. What a day! At first we thought we would be rained out, but God was working in our favor and we were able to spend one more day with the children. I will never forget the pure joy on their faces as we played that last rousing game of baseball. Their smiles and laughter touched my heart. It was a wonderful gift from God to experience the entire trip and I am very thankful to have been part of the effort.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reflections and Photos from Anne Olson

On first impression, many things have changed in Kosovo since 2005. Independence from Serbia was declared in February of this year. People are dressed more fashionably. Many youth have cell phones and email. European automobiles are seen more often now, and car washes are available. Not everyone has access, though, and many horse-drawn carts and other motor conveyances are still used. Farmers still walk their milk cows to the pasture and home again daily - tramping down the street or on sidewalks. Few war-damaged homes remain; much building is taking place. Many new restaurants and shops are open. While driving in the country, I notice irrigation rigs in use, something not seen 3 years ago.

Second impressions show that many things have not changed. The governing bodies are not strong at this time. Infrastructure of the country is weak...for instance; there still is no mail service. Obituaries are still fastened to telephone poles, leading me to believe that newspapers either are not available or regular. Garbage is still burned and the streets are filled with trash. The home I lived in 3 years ago was on a stretch of street heavily damaged during the war. It still shows no signs of repair; heavily potholed and with no sewer grates or street lights, making for treacherous foot travel at night. Also, vehicles driving down this street must weave back and forth around the bumps and potholes.

The most noticeable difference this trip is that the unbearable heat of 2005 is now cooler temperatures and rainy weather much of the time. Many of us are unprepared for long pants and long-sleeved shirts. We actually crave a blanket at night!

Reflection Photos from Ric Smith

Reflections from Karen Morgan

It was good to go back to Kosovo. Some things have improved and one was pretty bad. I saw a lot more of the city this time as we walked the streets quite a bit since our rental was quite small. That was fine with me, though, as you get a new perspective by getting around more. Even seeing the hospital was beneficial. By watching and listening, I think maybe we have created some problems within Liz's program by trying to make things better for the Kosovo kids. I think we have a great program and am always ready to go help.

Monday, August 4, 2008

These Are A Few of Our Favorite Things

Every member of the American group was asked to write down their three favorite things about the Kosovo trip. Below is the list, as compiled by Tamara Morgan, from written responses given during the plane ride from Vienna to Chicago. Special thanks to Karen Hartman and Tamara Morgan for making sure everyone provided input! Here's the list:

Places visited & scenery (Museums,Rugove Canyon,Peja,Prizren)
The Singing/Concerts (esp. Bondsteel & Church Service)
Friendships (new & old)
Teaching the children/working in schools
Time with Kosovar families (Dessert & Lunches)
Restaurants/food/Ice cream (OITA)
Family Stays/free time with the Kosovo friends
Slovene Village
Helping other people/being selfless
Meeting new people
Joy of all people involved/Working as a team (camaraderie)
Mild weather & temps
Hospitality of Kosovars
All the (new) experiences
Hospital House
Getting to know the American people on the trip
Getting to know Kosovar kids/Interaction
Free time in afternoons
Farewell party at River/Baseball game
American adult group meals together
Working around language barrier
Walking around the city
Support/caring/friendship from the people in our group
Staying out late at night
Seeing first hand the confidence SMF brings the kids
Rotary Meeting/Performance
Realizing there is still good in this world
Patience of all the kids
Participating in Saturday Mass at Catholic Church
Music is Love & Peace
Growth of youth/evolvement of relationships
Freedom & Safety
Felling of Home away from Home
Eye & Medical Exams
Cultural learnings & experimentations
Activities with Kosovars
10 million things to do
1 Person in charge at Airports to facilitate security/Passport/boarding
"Old European" feel of country